AHF calls for a complete re-do of the investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak – an independent scientific inquiry that is free from political interference and one that allows unfettered access to data, people and facilities.
LOS ANGELES – AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest provider of HIV/AIDS care and treatment globally, calls for a completely new and independent investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The appeal to scrap the investigation and start over comes after a Washington Post article today gave a preview of the joint report authored by investigators from the World Health Organization (WHO) and China, which is expected to be released tomorrow.
Confidence in the inquiry has been undermined from the beginning due to a lack of transparency by Chinese authorities, who took baffling steps to impede the investigation, such as refusing to grant investigators access to essential evidence like patient-level clinical data and blood bank samples. Ultimately, the investigation has failed to produce a definitive conclusion on the origins of COVID-19, which WHO Secretary-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus characterized as “all hypotheses are open.”
“There are serious and legitimate questions about the independence and credibility of this investigation. These questions remain unanswered because of China’s unwillingness to be completely transparent in granting unfettered access to facilities, people and data that can shed light on the early days of the outbreak,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “Additionally, the authorities themselves are circumstantially subject to this investigation. By them demanding to be so involved and hands-on throughout the entire process, the world is left with no choice but to give a vote of no confidence on the forthcoming report and to demand an entirely new study.”
Irrespective of the true origins of COVID-19, it is clear China does not want to reveal information that might cast its actions in a negative light or place blame for the pandemic in its lap, whether only perceived or a product of negligence and incompetence. The irony, of course, is that secrecy generates more suspicion and distrust and comes at the expense of more delays in getting the pandemic under control. Sadly, global public health is once again a hostage to politics. It is of vital scientific importance that we learn the origin and early natural history of COVID-19 to prevent future outbreaks.
As Stanford microbiologist David A. Relman noted in The Washington Post, “If the only information you’re allowing to be weighed is provided by the very people who have everything to lose by revealing such evidence, that just doesn’t come close to passing the sniff test.”
AHF will review the complete report in detail upon its release and issue additional information accordingly.